When it comes to technology, I tend to have a pretty staunch brand loyalty. It’s not just about the tech meeting my needs; if two products are similar in technology and capability, the price isn’t as big a deal to me as the brand itself. However, there’s another critical aspect to my continued loyalty: customer service. The frontier of bleeding-edge technology is often peppered with bugs, akin to hidden pitfalls on a journey. Software updates often come to the rescue, fixing most issues, but sometimes you hit a snag that only new hardware can solve. This brings me to my experience with SainSmart and their latest  creation, the L8 laser engraver.

My first CNC panel

My first purchase from SainSmart was the 3018 CNC. It was a great starting point, but it quickly demonstrated a flaw when the router assembly fell apart within the first week. I reached out to customer service, and they promptly sent out replacement parts. This level of service quickly cemented my loyalty to SainSmart.

When I was in the market for a laser engraver, SainSmart was naturally my first stop. Their 5.5-watt laser was top-of-the-line at the time, boasting a design that worked flawlessly. But, as is often the case, I found myself craving more power.

Laser etched cedar

SainSmart’s introduction of a 10-watt laser felt like a significant upgrade. It promised double the power and a larger active area. However, it wasn’t as intuitive as my previous model. I ran into issues setting the tension on the drive belt and found getting a straight answer from SainSmart more challenging than than getting an honest answer out of a politician. They did eventually come through, but the effort required took some of the shine off their brand.

Despite this, when 40-watt diode laser engravers began to hit the market, I was willing to give SainSmart another shot. Their design ingenuity was undeniable, and I wasn’t going to let one bad experience deter me.

The 40-watt L8 laser engraver boasts impressive features, and ships with a full enclosure, an air pump, and an aluminum honeycomb grid. It has the capability to cut through half-inch wood in a single pass, under the right conditions. However, experimenting with soft cedar showed me there’s a fine line between cutting and burning. Despite this, the L8 has proven to be an exceptional tool.

The machine’s design isn’t without drawbacks. The enclosure, designed to sit directly on the work surface, limits the ability to slide larger pieces underneath. This is a departure from previous models and poses a minor inconvenience when working with large surfaces. Connecting the L8 to Lightburn software provided another set of challenges. There are two USB ports whose functions aren’t immediately clear. The USB-C port is for communications, while the USB-B port connects to the camera, a setup that, while logical, was initially frustrating.

Cracked panel

So, why am I focusing on customer service instead of just reviewing the L8? There’s no doubt the L8 is a worthy machine and I’m happy to own it. However, my unit came with a minor cosmetic flaw—a crack in the front acrylic panel that suggests a potential design oversight. The picture illustrates the crack on the front acrylic panel. The crack initiated at the screw holding the panel and has since progressed across the full panel. The instructions have you holding it by the panel when you raise it to slide in the honeycomb. Given the distance of unsupported panel to the screw, I believe the force of holding the frame caused the crack to start.

I’ve written to SainSmart customer service three times without receiving even the courtesy of a response. As I said, this is cosmetic rather than functional, unless I try to relocate the laser, and then it becomes very important. A bit of acrylic material and some glue will fix it, but it would have been nice to get a replacement.

This situation, while seemingly minor, underscores a significant issue. The lack of response from SainSmart’s customer service has caused me to reassess my loyalty to the Sainsmart brand. Being able to count on a company’s support is crucial, especially when investing in high-tech equipment. As much as I’ve appreciated their products in the past, this experience has shown me that a company’s value isn’t just in what they sell, but also in how they stand behind their products.

The L8 laser engraver is my last purchase from Sainsmart. It’s a great machine but if they can’t or won’t provide support on their products, it’s time to find another company that understands the importance of customer service.

Laser etched aluminum business card. My retirement business card

UPDATE: Less than twelve hours after this was posted, Sainsmart informed me a new panel on it’s way and apologized for not responding sooner.  Coincidence? While the timing is suspicious, I don’t believe there was enough time for Google to index my post and Sainsmart to read it. While there are services out there that watch all social media for any mention of their client’s name and inform them immediately, if it’s not a coincidence, it was hyperspeed fast.

I’m left with two possibilities, either reviews can be very powerful in provoking a response from a manufacturer or Sainsmart customer service was unavoidably late in responding and the timing was simply a coincidence. The L8 is a great machine and while my relationship with Sainsmart customer service has been prickly at times, their products have served me well. Should I give them another chance?

© 2024, Byron Seastrunk. All rights reserved.